Email marketing has stood the test of time, still effective decades after its conception. The challenges impacting email marketing performance are less in the marketer’s control – pressure for better email design, threats to email deliverability, legislation, and updates that obscure human interactivity – to name a few challenges email marketing managers face.
There are likely interview questions you could be asked by an organization looking to hire an email marketing specialist or wish to assess whether you have a solid understanding of email marketing and your previous experience.
We’ll start with some warm-up questions, then cover terminology, campaign best practices, reporting and data, email template design, and more!
Email Marketing Basics (Warm-up)
1. What about email marketing interests you?<
Why did you decide to specialize in email marketing? Could be another way this question is asked. Talk about your career path, the first time you encountered email marketing, and how it made you feel. Tell the interviewer about what “hooked” you; it could be the results of an email campaign, email design, or that you were thrown into organizing an email campaign (and loved it!)
2. Describe a successful email campaign you were involved in.
Little explanation required from me here! You should always have an example use case in your ‘back pocket’.
Talk about the purpose of the email campaign (why you did it), the target audience (who it was for), the elements involved (email, and eg. landing pages, e-commerce). Which metrics were you tracking? How did you perform relative to the metrics you set out (your goals)?
3. How do you keep up to date with the latest email marketing trends?
There are countless information sources for email marketers to keep up to date.
4. How do you organize your workload? / Project management techniques?
With so many tasks and assets to juggle between team members, organizing your workload is an essential skill. You may have used a project management platform, such as Asana or Monday, for effective collaboration to ensure campaigns are delivered, on time.
Email Marketing Terminology
5. What is the difference between mailability and deliverability?
While mailability and deliverability are both concepts that explain why an email can or can’t make it into the recipient’s inbox, they often get confused with one another. However, the terms differ in a number of ways.
- Mailability: the ‘status’ you have with the recipient. Are you allowed to send emails? This can be summarised with one word: ‘consent’.
- Deliverability: is whether you will be able to get into the recipient’s inbox at a particular date/time. Consent doesn’t guarantee your email will be delivered – there are factors that are not consistent.
You can even use an analogy to explain you have a solid understanding of these two concepts, for example, the “nightclub analogy”.
6. What is the difference between hard and soft bounces?
A ’soft bounce’ is a temporary unmailable status, usually caused by server downtime, the recipient inbox is at full capacity, or maybe hasn’t been set up completely.
A ‘hard bounce’ is a permanently unmailable status. Causes include, misspelled email addresses, deactivated inbox (someone left the company).
In most email marketing platforms, a certain number of soft bounces (eg. 5) will convert into a hard bounce, so that emails repeatedly bouncing doesn’t negatively impact your overall deliverability. Bounces are explained in more detail here.
7. What is the difference between demographic and firmographic data (and examples)?
- Demographic: relates to data about the individual. In a CRM, this would be the contact-level data. Examples: age, gender, job title.
- Firmographic: relates to data about firms (businesses). In a CRM, this would be the account-level data. Examples: industry, number of employees. This is applicable in B2B marketing, and is a significant driver of segmentation in account-based marketing.
Email Marketing Campaign Best Practices
8. What are some different types of emails, and when would you send them?
Email marketing doesn’t only include “marketing”/promotional emails. Other types of emails include:
- Operational: Examples, service updates, updates to privacy policies. These must be sent to keep in line with regulations/SLAs etc. and bypass an individual’s mailability status.
- Autoresponders: These are short responses, usually text only. For example, confirmation following a form submission.
9. How would you incorporate landing pages into the campaign’s flow?
Landing pages are designed to encourage the individual to take your desired action. They should be designed so that the desired action is obvious, and the page is hard to navigate away from.
Email content acts as the ‘teaser’, which links to the landing page with more information, and typically a form, too.
10. How would you track email’s contribution to the wider campaign’s performance, such as using tracked links, or UTM parameters?
Some marketing automation platforms come with a tracked links feature, however, you should talk about the importance of adding UTM parameters to links, to ultimately track traffic sources to your website and landing pages. These will appear in Google Analytics reports – and you want “email” to show up as a significant contributor!
UTM parameters can also be used to track the source of conversions. Adding hidden fields to forms that capture these values can prove your efforts are resulting in conversions.
You could also mention the importance of forming a naming convention for UTMs in collaboration with the whole team, to keep Google Analytics reporting clean.
11. Have you used drip campaigns? Which use cases did you cover?
Drip campaigns string together a series of emails, and rules for if/when an email should be sent. Individuals progress through the automated email flow at their own pace. Controls are either added by either the marketer (eg. wait for 2 days) or are determined by the individual’s behavior (eg. if the recipient clicks this link, send the next email).
Drip campaigns can be used to power different stages of the customer journey – such as new subscriber welcome, customer onboarding, or “win-back” campaigns – see more examples here.
The interviewer will be keen to hear you have broad experience working across all parts of the customer journey, not just limited to the ‘top of funnel’ use cases.
12. Have you set up an email preference and/or managed consent records?
Email preference centers are fantastic for deflecting unsubscribes, giving individuals a way to mix n’ match what they want to be emailed about (rather than just simply opting-out!)
EPCs can get complicated quickly especially when there are multiple business units/product lines, and types of emails involved. It would be beneficial to talk through how you would structure an email preference center, and how to manage consents properly (ie. with the opt-in/opt-out dates recorded).
13. How much copywriting experience do you have?
Email marketing managers should be proficient in copywriting to “craft” that all-important persuasive and engaging email content.
If copywriting is not your strongest skill, don’t panic. Talk about the ways you are continually improving yourself by reading online resources, or even courses you plan to take (there are tons of free ones available).
14. Describe how you would plan account-based marketing campaigns end-to-end? (if applicable to the organization)
Describe the steps you would take – from identifying the most potentially valuable accounts, selecting marketing channels, through to aggregating engagement data, analytics, and optimization.
Email Marketing Reporting & Data Health
15. Which tool/platform have you used to report on email performance? Which metrics did you focus on?
(or rephrased, which behavioral data do you consider important?)
Reporting on email campaign performance could be done at multiple levels. Email marketing platforms come with their own, built-in reporting (usually WYSIWYG). Some organizations take their reporting to the next-level, building a comprehensive view in analytics platforms, such as Salesforce’s B2B Marketing Analytics, Tableau, Power BI, or Datorama.
Which metrics? Ultimately, conversions are key – how many people took the desired action? With the correct tracking (qu. 10) you will be able to see email’s contribution. Clicks are a metric that you should also keep an eye on, and opens too – but don’t fall into the trap of talking only about “vanity metrics”.
16. What is the difference between click-through rate, and click-to-open rate?
- Click-through rate (CTR): % of recipients who clicked on a link in the email, out of all recipients who received the email (delivered)
- Click-to-open rate (CTOR): % of recipients who clicked on a link in the email, out of all recipients who opened the email.
Key difference is the number of clicks is divided by total delivered (CTR) vs. total opened (CTOR).
17. What is marketing attribution? (and for Salesforce customers, what is Campaign Influence?)
Marketing attribution involves recording every marketing touchpoint an individual has with your brand. In most marketing automation platforms/CRMs, this is presented on their record in the form of an activity timeline.
‘Attribution models’ sound intimidating, but they don’t have to be! Attribution models determine how the revenue generated from won business (a sales deal) should be split between each touchpoint (campaign). Models place ‘rules of thumb’ for how touchpoints are weighted according to their importance (first-touch, last-touch, even distribution), which ultimately determine marketing ROI.
Campaign Influence in Salesforce does what I just described – how Salesforce Opportunities are associated with the Campaigns that helped generate them. It’s all about joining the dots between sales revenue (stored in opportunities) and marketing data (stored in campaigns)
18. What are some of the greatest causes of unsubscribes/opt-outs? How can you avoid them? How do you monitor unsubscribes? What unsubscribe rate would be alarming for a single campaign?
Sending emails too regularly and/or sending irrelevant emails. Worst still, recipients can’t remember even subscribing in the first place! Avoid unsubscribes by being selective (only sending relevant emails) and by setting up an email preference center (EPC).
You can spot high unsubscribe trends with an overview report of all sent email campaigns. An unsubscribe rate of > 0.5% is concerning, > 2% would be alarming.
19. Have you ever changed your tactics in light of unsubscribe reasons?
The question, phrased this way, means you can show your proactive attitude!
Take one or two reasons from the previous answer to talk about a change you made and the impact it had on unsubscribe rates, over time. You may have been faced with different issues, so shining light on how you prioritized your efforts is also a big “thumbs up”.
20. Describe some of the ways you keep email databases clean.
You could mention database hygiene practices, such as:
- Email verification, to remove invalid email addresses.
- List cleaning, to remove spam records or dummy data.
- Archiving inactive/unengaged individuals from the user base, for example, those who haven’t interacted with any email in 6 months (adjust depending on how often you send emails).
21. What are spam complaints (abuse rate), and how would you handle them?
Spam complaints are where a recipient has indicated your email is unwelcome in their inbox. This could be because they don’t recognize the sender, they never consented to receive emails from the sender, or the email content is offensive/annoying.
Each spam complaint should be taken seriously, as these can have a negative impact on your future email deliverability. The first thing to check is which email caused the complaint, then whether something went awry with your list segmentation.
22. What are the greatest challenges to deliverability, and how have you overcome them?
- Ensure email authentication has been set up correctly (SPF, DKIM, DMARC)
- Send to smaller email lists (more targetted segmentation)
- Monitor deliverability health (see next answer)
- Remove inactive/unengaged individuals from send lists and the user base.
23. Do you monitor deliverability health?
The answer should be “yes”! Try as you may to prevent them, deliverability issues can suddenly crop up and damage your email campaign performance.
You can spot poor deliverability with an overview report of all sent email campaigns. In addition, monitor your email domain health and check blocklists (blacklists) by using services such as MX Toolbox.
You could also describe the practices you would implement internally if you discovered poor deliverability, and the steps to get the domain removed from any blocklists. There’s more you should read up on to reassure the interviewer that you have a handle on deliverability:
- Check If Your Email Domain Is Blacklisted: Here’s What to Do About It
- Email Deliverability Audit: Quick Domain Health Checks
Email Template Design
24. What are the most important aspects of email design?
- Subject line,
- Pre-header (preview text)
- Call to action button, above the “fold”
- Email layout
- Responsive design
- Personalization/dynamic content
- Compliance information in the footer, including physical mailing address, link to one-click unsubscribe/email preference center.
25. How comfortable are you with HTML, CSS, and working with interactive email elements?
Be honest with your experience. If you’re not being hired for a developer-designer role, then you’ll be using drag-and-drop email builders, only needing to tweak the odd snippet of HTML occasionally.
26. Have you created a responsive email from scratch?
Again, if you’re not being hired for a developer-designer role then this won’t be a big focus. Talk about the importance of responsive emails, and how you leveraged the responsive template designs in email marketing platforms.
27. What considerations should you make for email accessibility/accessible design?
Accessibility means content can be used by “people with permanent and temporary disabilities, such as sight loss, speech and motor difficulties, hearing loss, cognitive impairments or even a broken arm, can use without encountering barriers that disrupt the task they’re trying to complete” (source: Siteimprove)
All new websites must be accessible by design, and existing websites updated. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline the requirements for websites, and your email content should also respect these.
- Correct color contrast,
- Buttons “state” reflected by something other than color (eg. an “active”/selected button should do something in addition to changing color).
- Tabbing order is logical.
28. How would you test an email before sending the whole campaign?
- Send a test email to check all links, personalization function
- Rendering tests: generate a rendering test to check how the email will display on different devices and email clients. Some email marketing platforms have this built-in (often powered by Litmus).
29. How would you test specific elements of an email – such as whether one call to action button performs better than another? (Or, rephrased: have you used A/B testing, and if so, describe the experiment)
A/B testing involves sending two versions of content (version A and version B), to a sample of recipients, to see which produces better results, in line with your goal. For example, does a blue call to action button result in more clicks than a yellow one?
The golden rule: only change one variable, otherwise, you won’t be able to pinpoint which variable made the difference.
- Pick your variable
- Create a sample of recipients (two groups, equal number of recipients in each)
- Monitor the results
30. What could cause an email to get flagged by spam filters?
- You are sending an unusually high volume of emails.
- You are sending emails to inactive/unengaged individuals
- You are using spam trigger words/phrases in the subject line.
- You include links to websites that are not secure.
Some email marketing platforms have spam detection built-in or use an online service.
31. Looking at this email, would you improve any elements, and if so, then what?
(shown an example email)
This one could make you feel like you’re being put on the spot. Don’t answer “I don’t know”. Take a moment to look over the template and make a mental checklist of all the elements we’ve covered in this section.
Email Marketing Regulations
32. Name some of the compliance legislations that govern data management.
- New privacy protection laws
The geographic location of their audience is a consideration here, for example, if they have European-based audiences, you should be comfortable talking about GDPR.
33. What is double opt-in, and have you implemented it before?
Double opt-in, also known as confirmed opt-in, ensures that recipients are granting their ‘explicit consent’ to become an email subscriber. After submitting a form to become a subscriber, an email containing a link is sent, to verify that whoever submitted the form and owns the email address is the same person! Double opt-in was enforced more strongly with GDPR, so you may have been involved in setting it up/testing.
Email Marketing Optimization
This section contains interview questions about how you can push the organization forward
36. How would you determine when the best time to send emails is?
- Segmenting lists by geographic location will ensure you are sending emails at optimal times of the day. In B2B marketing, you should stick to business hours (8am to 5pm).
- Testing the performance of emails at different times of the day.
- Some email marketing platforms have send-time optimization built-in (eg. Pardot’s Einstein Send Time Optimization).
37. How would you determine the optimal number of emails to send?
This is testing how you measure recency and frequency:
- Too many times (in a given time frame) = frequency.
- Too recently (in a given time frame) = recency.
Take a selection of unsubscribed prospects, and theorize whether too many emails caused them to op-out. Consider suppressing subscribers who are at risk of “marketing fatigue”.
38. What are some ways you could grow the number of subscribers?
- Setting up a subscription landing page.
- Posting about the landing page on social media channels.
- Adding subscription forms as banners within existing blog content.
- Adding a pop-up form when visitors first land on the site.
- …and more.
39. What opportunities and threats do you foresee for email marketing?
Future opportunities could include:
- Email marketing is a cheap and effective channel.
- Interactive email will make designs more engaging.
- Those who lead with permission-based marketing will come out winners.
- Increasingly granular reporting, multi-touch attribution, and predictive reporting.
Future challenges could include…
- Apple MPP and probable similar updates, making email reporting less reliable.
- Spam filters becoming ever more aggressive.
- Privacy legislations.
- Inboxes becoming increasingly crowded.
40. What are some ideas you have for our organization?
Your final chance to showcase why you are the best candidate for the role!
These are some of the questions you should be prepared to answer in an email marketing job interview. Keep up to date with the latest email marketing trends and legislation to showcase you’re ready to take advantage of future opportunities, and navigate through potential threats.
All that’s left for me to say is GOOD LUCK!
If you want to specialize in Pardot or Salesforce Marketing Cloud, check out these interview questions that focus on specific features and functionality: